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January 12, 1990 - Image 109

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1990-01-12

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

FOCUS

Bob McKeown

The Vintfeld family
talks with Bonnie
Torgow.

Family Match

100 Detroit families have been
matched with Soviet newcomers to
speed the acculturation process.

RONELLE GRIER

Special to the Jewish News

I

magine yourself on a long
journey, ending in a for-
eign place with un-
familiar customs and a
language you can't speak or
understand. To make matters
worse, you have very little
money, few possessions, and a
family that is counting on you
to settle and support them in
this strange new land.
Chances are, you could use
a friend, and being a friend is
what Family-to-Family, a pro-
gram that matches American
Jewish families with Soviet
Jewish immigrants, is all
about.
The program is jointly spon-
sored by National Council of
Jewish Women and the
Women's Division of Jewish
Welfare Federation out of con-
cern that the flood of Soviet
Jews coming to Detroit will
have persons here to advise
and befriend them, and help
them feel part of the Jewish
community.
When Mark and Susan
Lichterman of Oak Park met
Alex and Irina Potashinsky

and their son Steve for the
first time, there was a lot of
smiling. The Potashinsky
family had recently arrived
from Leningrad, and neither
family spoke the other's
language.
"Since then, we've sort of
developed our own language,"
said Mark, a law student at
the University of Detroit. "We
communicate on several dif-
ferent levels and their
English is much better now,
which helps."
Both Mark and Susan felt is
was important to help in-
tegrate the newly arrived
Soviet Jews into Detroit
Jewish culture. "We're very
comfortable with our
Judaism, and it's nice to be
able to share that," said
Susan, an attorney in Detroit.
Susan is gradually teaching
Alex and Irina the laws of
kashrut, which, along with
most Jewish customs, are
discouraged practices in the
Soviet Union.
The
Lichterman-
Potashinsky match has been
a successful one, far exceeding
the expectations of the two
families. "Initially, it was like

More than 200 persons attended the Chanukah program hosted by
Temple Israel.

a project we were committed
to, but now they've become
our good friends," said Mark.
The two families have spent
Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur
and Thanksgiving together,
and Alex and Irina have
learned much about Jewish
and American customs from

Mark and Susan. To their sur
prise, the Lichtermans have
gained a lot, too.
"I must admit that I ex
pected the relationship to be
more one-sided," said Mark,
"but it hasn't turned out that
way." They were invited to
Irina's birthday party, along

with several of the Potashin-
skys' Soviet Jewish
neighbors. "I expected a pret-
ty quiet evening," said Mark,
"but after dinner someone
brought out the vodka and
the guitars, and everyone sat
around until the wee hours
singing Russian songs."
Both Alex and Irina were
enthusiastic about par-
ticipating in the Family-to-
Family program. Although
they have some cousins in the
Detroit area, they left most of
their family, including
parents, grandmothers and
brothers, behind in
Leningrad.
They value the friendship
and support they have receiv-
ed from the Lichterman fami-
ly. Although many recent
Soviet immigrants need help
with basic things such as how
to navigate an American
supermarket, the primary
need of the Potashinsky fami-
ly was friendship.
"Even though most of our
initial communication was
non-verbal," said Mark, "it
was very important to them
simply that we were there
and that we cared."

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

105

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